Palliative Care NSW Volunteer Support Services Programme
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Zen Hospice, volunteers, spirituality and BJ Miller

The US hospice system, which could be described as an alternative funding option for people at end of life to the regular Medicare/Medicaid system, is increasingly populated by the entry of large health facility operators. The number of small independent community hospices is declining.

Some independently minded hospices survive, among them the Zen Hospice Project based in San Francisco.

The Zen Hospice Project supports residents in their own Guest House and also patients at the Laguna Honda Hospital.

Central to their model of care is volunteer involvement.

“Volunteers in the caregiving environment have a powerful and positive influence. They have demonstrated that they can be present to residents in ways that are different from both family members and nursing staff; volunteers are available to patients unimpeded by the emotional attachment that can make letting go so difficult or by the caseload pressures that nursing staff often feel”.

Their volunteer training program “integrates spiritual and contemplative practices with the practical skills of caregiving”.

In their Spring Newsletter ‘volunteer caregiver’ Betsy McMullin shares, “Volunteering at the Guest House has become my de facto spiritual practice. My time with the residents connects me more deeply to life’s impermanence, its immediacy. My weekly service shows me the power of staying still to bear witness to their dying process. For volunteers, caregiving becomes an expression of their highest self, and this expression ripples outward to benefit all who live and work at both of our sites of service.”

Senior Director and Advocate with Zen Hospice, BJ Miller, will be speaking about their work at the PCNSW Conference in Broken Hill in October 2016. BJ Miller’s 2015 TED Talk was one of the 15 most watched talks for that year.

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